I am not a great fan of rich food. My body doesn’t love it. Sorry to sound a bit Goop, but there it is. Such is life. But there are times (like, oh I don’t know, when it’s April and freezing outside with snow flurries forecast? What is going ON, people?) when comfort food with its attendant richness is the only thing which will do. To which end I give you two easy peasy variations on macaroni cheese.
The above Macaroni, Pancetta and Pecorino Cheesy Bake had me at hello. It’s from What Katie Ate
1 tbs olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
350g lean, mild pancetta*, skin removed, cut into small 1cm cubes
Large handful fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup(35g) fresh white breadcrumbs
1/2 cup (40g) finely grated pecorino, plus extra to serveFor the bechamel sauce
2/3 cup (100g) plain flour
3 cups (750ml) milk
1/4 cup (60ml) white wine
1 cup (250ml) light cooking cream
1 dup (80g) Pecorino, grated
1 cup (80g) Parmesan, grated
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C
- For the bechamel sauce, place a saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and allow to melt before adding the flour. Using a balloon whisk, beat together until a thick paste forms.Reduce the heat to low and cook paste for 1-2 minutes before adding the milk in stages, continuing to beat thoroughly as you go.
- Continue to beat until the milk is all used up and the sauce is smooth and creamy. Add the wine and cream and stir to combine. If the sauce thickens up too much, just add a little more milk to thin it out.
- Remove from the heat and add the Pecorino and Parmesan along with a good seasoning of freshly ground black pepper and a small pinch of salt. Cover and keep warm.
- Half-fill a large saucepan with boiling salted water, add the macaroni and boil until almost al dente. Drain and drizzle with a little olive oil and season with a little freshly ground black pepper.
- Meanwhile, place a large frypan over medium heat, add in 1 tbs olive oil, add the pancetta and cook for 10-12 minutes, tossing often, until golden and crispy and cooked through. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towel.
- Add macaroni to the bechamel sauce along with the cooked pancetta and chopped basil, combine well, pour the contents into a 2.25L baking dish.
- Combine breadcrumbs and Pecorino in a bowl, then scatter over the top of the pasta. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden. Serve with extra grated Pecorino.
Remember Fay Ripley? Her off Cold Feet? Well, she’s now the writer of two of the most indispensable cookbooks around, Fay’s Family Food and What’s For Dinner? They’re geared around families i.e. you cook the same thing for everyone – from babies to grannies – and I am all over anything which makes life easier (and dinner delicious), but I’ve recommended them to child-free friends who also swear by such wonders as her chicken, ham and leek pie, green vegetable tart and 5 minute healthy version of a Chinese takeaway.
We all – husband, daughter, me – adore this recipe from What’s For Dinner (winner of Mumsnet’s Best Cookbook accolade, no less). It is comfort food at it’s finest.
Green Macaroni in Minutes
2 big leeks, trimmed and chopped
Splash of olive oil
100g frozen chopped spinach
1 x 125g ball mozzarella cheese
200g half-fat crème fraîche
1 tsp Dijon mustard
120g mature Cheddar cheese, grated
For the topping:
50g fresh breadcrumbs
25g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
1. Preheat the oven to 180C Fan/Gas 4.
2. Cook the macaroni following the pack instructions (the macaroni should be slightly undercooked).
3. Fry the leeks in the oil for 8-10 minutes till soft. Add the frozen spinach and gently cook until defrosted. (I just use fresh spinach here.)
4. Take the pan off the heat, tear the mozzarella and mix together with the drained pasta, crème fraîche, Dijon and Cheddar (I add a liberal grating of nutmeg. Worth trying.). Place the mix into an oven-proof dish.
5. Now, mix the breadcrumbs and Parmesan together and sprinkle on top. Bake for 20 minutes until crispy and golden. Season and serve.
It is So Good. I defy you not to have seconds.
Images: Katie Quinn Davies for What Katie Ate